Growing Globally, Listening Locally: Open Science in Africa

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Author: Roheena Anand, Executive Director, PLOS Global Publishing Development

PLOS has made great strides over the past year with the launch of five new journals, piloting business models that will make open access publishing more equitable, and expanding our global footprint in a locally responsible way to get closer to researchers. .

Our collaboration with the African Association of Universities (AAU) and the Communication Training Center (TCC Africa) is a visible way to advance our mission and include the widest range of voices in the world.

On April 26, 2022, we publicly launched this collaboration via a webinar for Presidents, Vice-Chancellors, Rectors, Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Research Directors and Library Directors of African Universities. Our partnership will consist of a series of regional workshops across the African continent, focused on raising awareness and training in open science practices and open access publishing.

More than 60 heads of African institutions were present at the launch event. There was a dynamic panel of speakers, covering both global and local Open Science perspectives and initiatives. The program included representatives from UNESCO, the International Science Council, the African Open Science Platform and African library and information associations and institutions, reflecting a wide range of stakeholder views in the within the scholarly communication ecosystem.

However, and most importantly, we heard from institutional leaders present in breakout sessions focused on the challenges of embracing open science and open access mandates within their institutions.

We asked

  • What are the barriers to adopting Open Science mandates/policies in your institutions?
  • What needs to change to enable the adoption and implementation of these mandates/policies?
  • What are the next steps for you? And what time frame is needed to take these steps?

What we have learned will help us shape future regional workshops to ensure they can bring value to local participants and provide a forum to advance open science collaboratively.

Here are some of the key takeaways from these discussions:

  • There is still a general lack of awareness about what Open Science is and its implications for stakeholders within the scholarly communication ecosystem.
  • In particular, many misconceptions exist around open science and open access, for example the credibility of open peer review. Their benefits must be clearer for stakeholders: authors, readers, as well as institutional actors such as Research Offices.
  • Academic libraries/librarians are often active in advocating for open science and open access within their institutions; therefore, their involvement is and will be critical to advancing adoption. They are of course familiar with these subjects through their exchanges with publishers and their roles with institutional repositories.
  • There are concerns about cost (article publication fees) and intellectual property rights: if the material is open, how can we ensure that it is not subject to abuse or manipulation ?
  • Incentives to practice open science are not integrated into research assessment and career progression

Our goal with collaborations like these is to ensure the co-creation of pathways to open science that work for diverse communities and don’t just extend existing power structures. Our work is ongoing and global: we recently announced a partnership with EASTECO in Africa, we established PLOS GmbH in Berlin and are exploring options in Asia and Latin America to help us connect with researchers and other stakeholder communities. stakeholders at the local level. .

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